Sgt. Bruce A. Prothero had but two loves -- his family and his job.
To his neighbors in a tidy subdivision in Carroll County, Prothero was a fun-loving father of five young children -- including a set of triplets -- who raked leaves into piles so his 6-year-old daughter could frolic in them.
To Prothero's colleagues at the Baltimore County Police Department, he was a conscientious manager who fought county officials for better police wages.
"He would go to bat for you; he would risk his own advancement for us," said Officer Dale Green, who worked with Prothero, 35, at the county's Garrison precinct, where Prothero worked for most of his 12-year police career.
Still, everyone who knew Prothero knew where his priorities were -- at home, with his family.
First and foremost, Prothero was a father. A man who worked two jobs so that his wife, Annie, could stay at home with their children, ages 2 to 6.
Prothero was shot and killed yesterday while working his second job as a part-time, plain-clothes security guard at J. Brown Jewelers in Pikesville.
"You look up family in the dictionary and you'll see his picture next to it," said Prothero's neighbor, Bill Earl. "He was a hell of a guy. He was always happy."
Every second Prothero wasn't working he spent with his three girls and two boys, said neighbors in his subdivision near Eldersburg.
As news of Prothero's death spread, clusters of neighbors gathered at the edges of driveways, crying and holding one another, warding off a sudden chill that wasn't caused by snow and ice.
Parents chatted quietly on front porches, and children peered through windows, curious about the sudden hush. Word of Prothero's death had a palpable effect.
There was near silence as cars filled with family and close friends pulled to the front of the Prothero home in the 1600 block of King Richard Road. Outside the family's two-story house, a flag with a happy-looking snowman flapped in the breeze.
"All of his free time, he spent with his children," said neighbor Sandra Hancock, who burst into tears when she learned of Prothero's death. "It will be devastating for this neighborhood."
The Rev. Frank Trotter, pastor of the Reisterstown United Methodist Church, spent much of the day with the Prothero family, who attend services at the church. "The family is devastated," Trotter said.
Prothero, who grew up in Rockville, was well-known at the police department for his devotion to his family, colleagues said.
Recently, when McDonald's restaurants were giving out free Disney toys with meals, Prothero asked fellow police officers to collect the play-pieces for him so that he could give them to his children, said Green. Everyone pitched in. "Bruce wanted every one," Green recalled.
At the Woodlawn precinct where Prothero worked most recently, he headed a team of detectives who watch for crime trends, said Lt. Pat M. Brennan.
"He still wanted to make a difference," Brennan said.
Sun staff writers Liz Atwood, Sheridan Lyons and Nancy A. Youssef contributed to this article.